Save the princess! It's one of the oldest objectives in video games. There've been a lot of kidnapped princesses over the years, but none are as synonymous with the trope as Princess Peach and Princess Zelda. But, despite both of their penchant towards getting nabbed by the badguys, there's a lot more to these two ladies than simply being hostages. They run, they laugh, and, occasionally, they kick ass. Given that they're both the royally appointed representatives of two of the most famous video game franchises in history, it begs the question: who's the fairest of them all?
Best Solo Title: Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Despite being a prominent figure in video game history, Zelda has only had two solo entries to-date: Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventures. It's not a particularly good game (though definitely the best of the atrocious CD-i Legend of Zelda games), but the reversal of typical gender roles does make it noteworthy. Wand of Gamelon's gameplay vaguely approximates the typical Zelda style, though it is considerably sloppier and dumbed down. The game may be poorly executed, but its heart was in the right place.
Most Badass Appearance: Super Smash Bros Brawl
Zelda has spent much of her time in captivity, and in Super Smash Bros Brawl she channels that frustration into being one badass fighting chick. As Zelda she can cast spells, reflect projectiles, and use the Arrow of Light to obliterate anything in her path. She also has the added bonus of being able to throw on her Sheik outfit and adopt her alternate persona from Ocarina of Time. As Sheik, she's lightning fast, agile, and can chuck knives with the best of them. Plus Sheik's outfit falls into the Strider Hiryu/Boba Fett formula of less exposed face = more mysterious/more awesome.
Number of Times She's Had to Be Rescued: 12
Link needs a vacation. Or he should try dating girls who don't get kidnapped every five minutes.
Best Solo Title: Super Princess Peach
Super Princess Peach is a much better game than either of Zelda's solo outings. After all, it's a platformer with Nintendo's name on it, so you know it's been subjected to rigorous play-testing. There are eight worlds for Peach to traverse, each with themes standard to the Super Mario game archetype, like lava, ice, and ghosts. As Zelda worked to rescue Link in her games, so, too, does Peach work to rescue Mario. It's a fun game, and would be quite empowering for young women ... if it weren't for the fact that most of Peach's powers come from utilizing her mood swings. That's right — Peach's main ability is that she's moody. It makes for fun gameplay, but it comes at the price of being kind of a slap in the face to women everywhere.
Most Badass Appearance: Super Mario Bros 2 (U.S.)
Between the four playable characters in Super Mario Bros 2, Peach was arguably the best. She was quick on her feet, could pull stuff out of the ground with adequate speed, and float mid-jump for several seconds. Sure, the Mario Bros each had their own benefits, like Luigi's long-jump or Mario's quick, high leaps, and Toad ... well, Toad was fast. But Peach's hover made her a go-to choice for clever gamers looking to control the game's airspace. Traps? No problem — float over them. Bottomless pit? Float it! Tons of bullet-spewing enemies? Too bad they can't aim up, 'cause we're floating straight over that mess.
Number of Times She's Had to Be Rescued: 13
Number of times Mario should have found himself a nice Italian girl, instead of chasing after a princess who leaves all of her doors unlocked? 13. Shoulda stuck with Pauline, bro.
Winner: Princess Zelda
It's a close race between the two princesses, but, all things considered, Zelda's the stronger royal highness. Though it's true that she's been captured almost as often as Peach, she'll spend time traveling the world in disguise, like when she's Sheik in Ocarina of Time, or Tetra in the Wind Waker games. In Wind Waker she even fights alongside Link in the final battle against Gannon, which is far more than Peach has ever done in the main Super Mario Bros games. Both Princesses are great, but perhaps the lesson here is that it's 2013 — there's no need for these ladies to be relegated to being kidnapees all the time.